Israeli compliance with International Law including International Humanitarian Law–and policy of political assassination abroad

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Adapted and expanded from an article published in The Trencant Observer, on December 1, 2023


1) Dion Nissenbaum”Israel Plans to Kill Hamas Leaders Around the World After War; Nation’s spy agencies have long history of targeted assassinations,” Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2023 (updated 12:06 am ET);

2) “Netanyahu’s references to violent biblical passages raise alarm among critics, NPR Morning Edition, November 7, 2023 (5:09 am ET);

3) Robert Kagan, “A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending,” Washington Post, November 30, 2023(8:00 a.m. EST);

4) Nicole Hong, “How a Suspected Indian Murder-for-Hire Plot on U.S. Soil Was Foiled; After a murder in Canada, a sting operation, prompted by an explosive tip through an unexpected channel, rushed to prevent another killing, New York Times, December 2, 2023 ( 301 a.m. ET);


Nissenbaum refers to international law, but does not elaborate on the topic, which is perhaps understandable given the main thrust of his reporting and the outstanding contribution it makes. He or another Wall Street Journal reporter should address the international law consideration in a subsequent article, taking care to consult experts and authorities from cou tries other than or in addition to Israel and tge United States.

Today he merely mentions the issue, as follows:

Targeted killings abroad can violate international law and run the risk of blowback from nations in which assassins operate without their permission. In practice, however, Israel and others have pursued targeted killings and weathered the repercussions.

Israeli and American officials tend to have idiosyncratic views on the legality of targeted killings or assassinations in foreign countries, as both Israel and tge United States have engaged in such programs. Consequently, the legality of such actions under international law cannot be assessed consulting only officials from those two countries.

To gain an accurate appreciation of tbe requirements of international law and whether Israel is complying with them, reporters need to reach out to international law experts and officials in other countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico,Colombia, Chile, Nigeria, South Korea, and China.

See James Rowles, “What is International Law? Lesson One: International Law is INTERNATIONAL,” Trenchant Observations (Substack newsletter), November 17, 2023

During the American war in Afghanistan and the U.S. world-wide war on terror, the United States espoused some extreme interpretations of international humanitarian law, used in particular to justify its program of targeted assassinations not only in the war theater of Afghanistan but in far away countries in tge Middle East and Africa.

In Afghanistan, it appears the program of targeted assassination was an important factor in pushing rural populations toward greater sympathy with the Taliban.

U.S. interpretations of international humanitarian law were so extreme that they justified the assassination Al-Awqi in ____! despite the fact that he was a U.S. citizen and entitled to the due process under the Fifth Amendment before being deprived of his life.


1) “U.S. Targeted Assassinations Violate Citizen’s Right to Life and Due Process, Undercut International Law,” The Trenchant Observer,February 3, 2010.

2) “UPDATE: Anwar al-Aulaqi: Targeted Killings, Self-Defense, and War Crimes, The Trenchant Observer, August 6, 2010.

The fact that Israel and other countries (e.g., India) feel they can go and assassinate their opponents on foreign soil is in part due to the bad U.S. example and the extreme interpretations of international humanitarian law it has asvanced to justify its targeted killing programs.

The Trenchant Observer

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